A guy named Gary Friedrich created the character of Ghost Rider for Marvel comics. You know, tortured motorcyclist, head on fire, spirit of divine retribution, all that. Couple zillion comics sold, big movie with Nicolas Cage, and a sequel about to hit theaters, all owned by the comics division of Disney, the multi-billion dollar company.
As with many creators, the gigs fell away and today Friedrich has no residuals, no pension, and no material benefit from having created such a lucrative property. He’s been selling prints of Ghost Rider to keep from being entirely destitute, and sued Marvel for a fraction of the worth that he created for them.
Clearly, this could not stand. Marvel countersued for the value of those prints, and as of today, have won a US$17,000 judgment against Friedrich². Also, he cannot ever say that he created Ghost Rider.
the real world is scary.
scott kurtz have better words than mine to explain this topic
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about this lately, because I can see both sides here. On the one side you have the world of real people. Creators who are facing real problems. Bankruptsy, medical bills, mortgages. And it’s just so crazy to think that a person experiencing those problems created something that’s earning millions in the box office and he receives none of it.
On the other side you have a world of corporations and properties. And the very real laws that are involved for a corporation to own and exploit those properties for profit.
Can a corporation feel sorry for a guy, and set a precedent of giving him some money without dismantling their entire business? Once they decide that one creator who worked under very bad practices in the 50s,60s,70s is due a percentage of profits because, shit, they created the character, won’t that set the precedent that all other creators who worked under such practices are also owed?
Another big question I have is…what was this guy doing since Ghost Rider? Did he just have one idea? That was it? Just the one? Could he not create anything else? Try something else? Retain ownership?
I think that speaks to a lot of it. How many people even know who created Ghost Rider before this article came out? How much of what Ghost Rider is at this point is because of that one creator and how much of it is because of years and years of development across 100 other creators?
If Marvel gives this guy a chunk, don’t they owe a chunk to every person who ever contributed to Ghost Rider?
The flip side to this story, of creators working under unfair practices and not ending up like the Seigels or the Kirbys or this guy, is Image. They said screw it and left and started their own companies and made their own creator-owned stuff.
I think this is a sad story. I think it’s tragic that there are artists struggling while they watch their creations dance across a now a corporate owned blockbuster movie, but I think it’s just more complicated than “he created it, so he gets a percentage.”